In an article in the Birmingham News yesterday, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) described a meeting Tuesday with NASA administrator Charles Bolden as “troubling” because he didn’t see any signs of compromise from the administration. “We should not think that the president at the moment has any plans to make significant alterations to what they have stated is their goal,” he told the newspaper. Sessions also said he and a group of other, unidentified senators are interested in an “independent legal opinion” on NASA’s use of the Antideficiency Act to slow down work on Constellation. “We think this is clearly a violation of the congressional intent.”
Despite a NASA directive to withhold nearly $1 billion in Constellation funds in order to comply with the act, money is still flowing to Constellation contractors, the Wall Street Journal reports. The article suggested that the latest releases of funds to contractors ATK and Lockheed Martin were somehow done in contradiction to that directive and without Bolden’s knowledge or approval, claiming that “NASA’s bureaucracy seems to be equivocating” even though monthly Constellation expenditures have dropped by two thirds.
Bolden also faces criticism in an editorial in today’s Orlando Sentinel, this time about his potential conflict of interest regarding an agency biofuels program the newspaper reported over the weekend. That controversy, the editorial argues, “raises doubts about whether he has all the right stuff – including the savvy and sound judgment – to succeed in his position.” The Sentinel wants Bolden to step back from any decisions about this particular project as well as any others where he might have some kind of financial stake. “Mr. Bolden has called into question his ability to lead NASA in this extraordinary time. How quickly, and how firmly, he acts to defuse this controversy will speak volumes about whether he is up to the job.”